Huge tidal project will soon be powering Scotland

MeyGen is big on every measure - and the first phase of the massive project is on target to start generating electricity. Toby Kirkwood reports from the official opening.

The world's largest free-stream tidal power project, MeyGen, has been officially opened at the Nigg Energy Park by Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Participants in the project and about 150 guests gathered to mark this key stage in the onshore and offshore construction campaign, aimed at delivering clean, reliable, predictable tidal power to Scotland. I was fortunate to attend the event in September when we were given an exclusive first look at one of the turbines. It was an exciting occasion and the buzz of anticipation in the sector was evident.

The event followed the project's successful connection to the National Grid at the Ness of Quoys distribution network in June, the 33kV power export cables having been installed by the network operator, Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution. 

The project's owner, Atlantis Resources, is on track to deliver first power to the grid from MeyGen phase 1A this winter, which will be another landmark event for the global marine power industry.

When the project is completed, MeyGen's 269 turbines will generate enough energy to power 175,000 UK homes.

ABB, alongside its local civil contractor John Gunn and Sons, has finished the construction of the power house, site of the power conversion gear for the turbines, 33kV switchgear for the grid connection, and a control centre to operate the array. The building also includes an indoor substation for the SSE grid connection equipment and offices for the MeyGen operations team. 

The first of four 1.5MW Andritz Hydro Hammerfest turbines is being assembled at the Nigg Energy Park before being transported to the Pentland Firth for installation later this year.

CKD Galbraith is proud to have been involved in such a significant project in Scotland.We were heavily involved in securing the wayleave agreements on behalf of Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution for the 17km onshore 33kV underground connection. This became the world's largest tidal energy grid connection when it was commissioned in April. 

National Grid classifies MeyGen as a large power station, and it must therefore satisfy the stringent UK grid code. This is the first tidal energy project to go through this process - demonstrating the scale and importance of the project.

The Scottish Government has provided 23m of funding to help develop the project. Ahead of her visit to the Nigg Yard, the First Minister said MeyGen was set to invigorate the marine renewables industry in Scotland and provide vital jobs for a skilled workforce, retaining valuable offshore expertise that would otherwise be lost overseas. 

General Manager of the Crown Estate's Scotland Portfolio Ronnie Quinn said at the official opening:

"The Crown Estate has been working with Atlantis Resources over a number of years, providing specialist support on seabed leasing and investing nearly 10m in the project to help unlock Scotland's tidal energy potential. With the deployment of these turbines in a commercial array, a world first, Scotland and the UK remain at the forefront of this industry."